Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Umoja Village Shantytown Full to Capacity


After just one month and four days, the Take Back the Land Umoja Village Shantytown is built and occupied to full capacity. We have no more land on which to build and we have already turned away no less than three (3) homeless people looking for permanent shelter.

The Umoja Village Shantytown houses approximately 35 full time residents who, otherwise, would have no where to live. These are people who CHOOSE to live in a wooden structure and work for free building and maintaining a shantytown in the United States. We have no more land onto which we can safely build on our side of the lot.

This turn of events is important because it shows the critical need in South Florida for low-income housing and the extent to which local governments are unresponsive to the needs of the people. The needs of each and every developer are met upon arrival, yet the needs of the poor- especially in the Black community- languish.

This does not mean we do not need your support- in fact, quite the opposite. We ask people of good conscience to do one or more of the following:

VISIT THE UMOJA VILLAGE SHANTYTOWN. Come see what has been built and feel the love and buy in of the residents. Make the Umoja Village a permanent part of Miami by visiting and granting us legitimacy. We are at 6201 NW 17th Ave., on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami.
MAKE A CASH DONATION. We have several things we need to build and purchase on the lot besides additional units. You can make that happen by making a cash donation. Donate via PayPal on our blog ( or by following this link:

  Take Back the Land PayPal Donation

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DONATE STAPLE GOODS. We are always in need of the basics: fresh food; canned food; water; ice; hand soap; forks and knives; clothing; shoes; large garbage bags; plastic tarps; plywood and 2x4s; and anything else needed to run a city.

 DONATE A BIG TICKET ITEM: We need some other items, including: twin sized mattresses; a metal shed; carpet; wooden doors; two 150 gallon water containers with spouts; a 55 gallon drum; four pop-up canopies;

 TELL THE GOVERNMENT: HANDS OFF UMOJA VILLAGE. In spite of doing the government's job for free, the city of Miami continues to send agencies and provocateurs to the shantytown in an effort to disrupt us and our neighbors. WE HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THEY WILL RAID AND DESTROY UMOJA VILLAGE. You can stop them. Contact Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and tell him to keep his hands off of Umoja Village. You can help by:

1. Visiting Umoja Village and signing our petition.

2. Sign our on-line petition (

3. Email and call Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and tell him to keep his Hands Off Umoja Village (email:; phone: 305-250-5300).

4. Email and call Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and tell him to keep his Hands Off Umoja Village (email:; phone: 305-375-5071).

Let them know we are providing a needed service and should be left alone. If they know we have support, it decreases the chances of them attacking us.

 Thank you in advance for your support.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development
Take Back the Land

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Umoja Village Shantytown Holiday Dinner


On Thursday, November 23, 2006, beginning at 3:00pm, the Umoja Village Shantytown will host our Umoja Dinner. The event will be held at the Shantytown, located at 6201 NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami. The dinner will feed residents of the shantytown as well as neighbors from the Liberty City area.

Friends and supporters of the Umoja Village Shantytown are also invited to join for food, friends and fun.

In response to gentrification and the severe housing crisis, several organizations and individuals took control over a vacant lot on October 23rd 2006. Since then, the group has built a shantytown- later named Umoja Village- on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. The shantytown currenlty houses between 25 and 30 people and provides food every night. The shantytown was constructed and is maintained through volunteer labor and donations.

For the Umoja Dinner, we are still in need of donations of side dishes- such as macaroni and cheese, rice, potato salad, corn bread, etc. So, please make donations at the shantytown before 3:00pm on Thursday.

We are always in need of blankets; twin sized mattresses; water; food; clothes; shoes; 2 x 4 wood; plywood; coolers; ice; soap; and other items needed to run a household and a city. Direct financial contributions can be made via paypal by following this link:

Thank you in advance for your support.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development
Take Back the Land

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Shantytown Naming Ceremony


Take Back the Land invites all to the Shantytown Naming Ceremony on Thursday, November 16, 2006 at 6:00PM, at the Shantytown on 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami. There will be free food and fun as we give name to the land we liberated.

A group of organizations and individuals took control over the publicly owned lot on Monday, October 23, 2006. Since then, a full Shantytown has been built, providing food and housing for the homeless, using public land for public good and doing what local governments have been unwilling to do themselves. The take-over was planned after years of government neglect and corruption conspired to exacerbate gentrification and a serious housing crisis in South Florida. Local governments have been non-responsive to community demands for affordable and low-income housing, and so, Take Back the Land took matters into their own hands.

All are welcome to meet the residents and neighbors on this community land. Donations are welcome and appreciated. Visit our blog for more information at:


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

Monday, November 13, 2006

Miami's Shantytown


Below, please read the latest news update on the Liberty City Shantytown from the Orlando Sentinel/South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Also, click on the link to the story, where you can find good pictures of the shantytown.

Also, check out this link to an indy media video on the same:

If you have not already done so, please visit our blog to sign the petition and donate to the cause:


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development
Take Back the Land,0,7312775.story?coll=orl-news-headlines-state

Miami's shantytown

Sick of what they say are officials' broken promises, the poor take over a lot in Liberty City and call it home.

Maya Bell
Sentinel Staff Writer

November 13, 2006

MIAMI - squatters village rising on public land in the heart of one of Miami's poorest neighborhoods doesn't have even the barest comforts of home.

A dozen shanties, made from pallets and plywood, are each just big enough to accommodate two mattresses and a few meager belongings. There is no running water, electricity or refrigeration. The bathroom consists of a portable toilet, and a large, round mirror, where men stoop to shave.

Yet most of the ragtag residents are finding something they never found in jail, or under bridges or in homeless shelters where they often spent their nights: a sense of community and purpose.

"This is a stand for action," said Jonathan Baker, 33, who until recently lived under a Metrorail overpass. "If the county and the city aren't going to live up to their promises to provide affordable housing, we'll do it ourselves."

The stand began Oct. 23 when homeless, housing and other community advocates, fed up with years of broken promises to build affordable housing for Miami's poor, took control of a 1-acre lot in Liberty City and began erecting the "Take Back the Land" Shantytown.

They have no permission to be on the city-owned parcel, but Max Rameau, a community activist and one of the organizers, says they are operating under the protection of a court agreement that forbids the arrest of homeless people engaged in "life-sustaining" misdemeanors. That includes sleeping and bathing in public, or trespassing and camping on public land.

For now, Miami police are treating the encampment as a protest and leaving it alone.

"It was decided to let them exercise their First Amendment rights," police spokesman Delrish Moss said. For how long, he said, is up to the city, raising the possibility that a showdown might be looming.

The new city official charged with developing the property said her office is about to issue requests for proposals and is awaiting the "next step" from the city attorney.

But City Attorney Jorge Fernandez said he has yet to be contacted about the issue.

The protesters are operating under a pact known as the Pottinger Settlement, named after the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. The settlement came in 1998 after nearly 10 years of litigation over Miami's treatment of its homeless, which a federal judge condemned as "offensive and repugnant."

It put a halt to the police practice of clearing the homeless from downtown encampments by confiscating and burning their belongings -- often right before Miami was to host an event that put the city in the spotlight, such as the Super Bowl or a visit by the late Pope John Paul II.

In the ensuing years, local authorities established homeless shelters and other outreach programs. But, Rameau says, city and county officials have worsened the area's affordable-housing crisis by razing public or low-income apartments, often letting the land lie fallow until developers replace them with gleaming condos or other pricey dwellings well out of the reach of the displaced.

A case in point, he said, is the once-garbage-strewn parcel now covered in fresh mulch and dotted with the 12 pallet shanties and a few tents in the heart of Liberty City, a predominantly black neighborhood plagued by crime and poverty.

In 1997, Rameau said, the parcel housed the Martin Luther King Jr. Complex, a privately owned three-story apartment building with 62 units and rat holes in the walls, crumbling stair railings and leaky, smelly pipes.

When he and other activists complained about the deplorable conditions, the city declared the complex uninhabitable and promptly evicted the residents. The following year, the city purchased the property for $900,000, promising to rebuild affordable and safe housing there for the displaced. But until last month, the land remained vacant.

Today, Rameau says, he and a cadre of volunteers have done more in three weeks to serve the overlooked than the city has managed in eight years. Every night they are feeding and housing up to 15 people. And, he said, they have every intention of making the shantytown, and others like it, permanent and self-sustaining.

"It makes more sense to just take the land than continue going to government for solutions," Rameau said. "All they do is lie to us, ignore us, disrespect us, and then steal the money anyway."

Adding fuel to his charges are ongoing investigations into potential fraud and other abuses at the Miami-Dade Housing Agency and the Model City Trust, the quasi-city agency responsible for revitalizing the Liberty City area.

Last year, The Miami Herald reported that the county agency paid millions of dollars to developers for affordable housing that was never built. And this past July, a scathing city audit found that the trust, now called the Liberty City Trust, has spent $8.5 million but has only rehabbed or rebuilt eight homes in four years.

The former trust president is now gone and her replacement, Elaine Black, conceded the property has lain dormant for too long, but she could not explain why.

"I do know that our mandate is to make sure development does occur on that site and others," Black said. "There definitely is a need for housing, and we are preparing requests for proposals."

As such, she is not happy about the shantytown, which she said is a "health hazard" and the subject of complaints from nearby residents.

That's news to Rameau, though, who is counting on public support as much as the Pottinger Settlement to protect the encampment. He notes that the village is surviving almost solely on contributions from supporters, including the residents of the apartment complex next door. They took up a collection and made the first donation -- $7.

And as rudimentary as it is, the shantytown becomes more rooted every day. Strangers regularly drop off boxed dinners, canned goods, clothes and other supplies. A shower stall is under construction, and tomatoes and kale are sprouting in box gardens.

Mornings usually start with coffee brewing on a "rocket stove," a pile of bricks that funnels heat up. While some residents such as Baker head to the labor pool, others help volunteers nail together another shelter, sheathing the wood-pallet walls in cardboard and topping it with plywood.

Dinners are communal, and Fridays are movie nights, with a sheet serving as the big screen and electricity borrowed from the neighboring apartment complex running the laptop that doubles as a projector.

"The more support we get from the community, the more difficult it will be for them to get us out," Rameau said. "The longer they wait, the bigger the outcry."

Maya Bell can be reached at or 305-810-5003.

Copyright © 2006, Orlando Sentinel | Get home delivery - up to 50% off

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tonight: Shantytown Grand Welcoming


All are invited and welcome to the Take Back the Land Grand Welcoming celebration, tonight, Thursday, November 2, 2006 beginning at 6:00pm at the Take Back the Land Shantytown, on the corner of 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in Liberty City.

Come experience the Power of the People as we celebrate the liberation of public land for the public good.

In response to the severe housing crisis, and the active role played by government officials in exacerbating the crisis, several organizations, led by the Center for Pan-African Development, took control of publicly owned land on NW 62nd St. and NW 17th Ave. in the Liberty City section of Miami.

Since then, we have provided food for the hungry and housing for the homeless on a daily basis.

Come meet our hard working residents, our wonderful neighbors and our dedicated volunteers as we celebrate a new way to address social issues- by solving the problem ourselves.

We look forward to seeing you there. Donations are welcome.


Max Rameau
Center for Pan-African Development

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